Learning to be Tidy (sort of)

I was the only girl child. My grandmother made my clothes and they were spectacular. My brothers taught me football, baseball and sarcasm. My mother taught me subtext. My father taught me how to be an extrovert. They all somehow failed to make me understand the art of neatness.

I was a girl. I must be– Neat. Organized. Prepared.

That’s what I was told.

But no one showed me HOW to be neat or organize, or prepared ( prepared for what, I never knew). It was not a natural thing for me.

Clothes usually made it to the floor. Sometimes they made it to the closet floor. I would carve little paths through them to get where I wanted to go. The floor sometimes looked like a rough stained glass window. At least that it how I saw it. Mother had another vision.

I spent hours climbing trees or building forts or roller skating with my friends on the block. And we were a band of warriors.

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Play was a mandatory part of my childhood. And while I played my floor would miraculously be reset for another artistic attempt. It never occurred to me that someone did that for me. To me that was the normal thing. A magical thing

My parents had a shower in the garage. Right next to the back door. I could step from the outside directly into the shower without touching anything else. After a good session of “fort” I was instructed to do that with my clothes on. The clothes would end up on the shower floor. Miraculously, clean ones were hanging on the hook by the shower door when I finished. The dirty, wet ones somehow made it to the washer. That was the normal thing. A magical thing.

Mind you, I was 8 or 9 at the time.

But it didn’t get any better.

When I left for college, I went with my best friend. We were rooming together in a dorm. She had no idea how awful that would be. (She is still my best friend which makes her a saint!)

We often had sleep-overs at each other houses. Our mothers were friends and colleagues (both nurses) so this was a regular thing. At my house, we slept on the living room floor. At her house, we slept in her room. At my house, the miraculous floor cleaning happened. At her house, she had to clean her room! What a concept!

But when we got to college, I had to learn to a new way of living. My friend would, at first, assist me in use of clothes hangers. She gave up.

She tried using sub-text, then direct text, then hostile text. She gave up.

Then one day I came back from class and all my clothes were missing. I opened the closet and was almost buried in an avalanche of  clothes and shoes. I am lying on the floor under the weight of textiles and she is intently studying at her desk. Not a word was spoken.

I tried REALLY hard after that to learn the art of neat.

Yup, I was spoiled. It wasn’t until I left home that I began to appreciate what my family had done for me. It took a long while to begin to understand that we all need a village to get through it all. It took a while to understand some of life’s basic requirements. It took a while to learn that life gives back what you put into it. It took a while to learn that taking things for granted, expecting others to do what you don’t want to do, is not acceptable in this life.

I still haven’t succeeded in keeping my room clean. But it is, some 50 years later, getting better. I am a little less Messy .

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